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Plans for a waterpark in Marseille to set aside a day just for Muslim women wearing burqinis — full-body swimsuits — sparked outrage in secular France today. The “Pool Day” set for September 10 at the southern city’s Speed Water Parc smacks of “dyed-in-the-wool communalism,” said Florian Philippot, a top advisor to far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
The event is the brainchild of Smile 13, a women’s association in the port city, whose population of nearly two million includes around 220,000 Muslims, mainly of Algerian origin. “This sort of event should be banned,” Philippot said, warning of a “risk of public disorder”.
Criticism also came from the left, with Senator Michel Amiel — who is mayor of the northern suburb, Les Pennes Mirabeau, where the waterpark is located – saying he would seek a ban. “I am shocked and angry. I see this event as a provocation that we don’t need in the current climate,” he told the daily Aujourd’hui in the wake of two jihadist attacks that rocked France last month.
Valerie Boyer of the right-wing Republicans party said, for her part: “There is nothing anodine about this. The battle of the veil is the visible expression of fundamentalists’ wish to mark their territory.” She said it was a way for “Islamism to wear a uniform and exert real social control.”
Muslim dress is a hot-button issue in France, where the full-face veil is banned in public places. The appearance of high-fashion burqinis and hajib headscarves by designers targeting the Muslim market prompted France’s women’s rights minister, Laurence Rossignol, to accuse them of encouraging the “imprisonment of women’s bodies”.
National Front Senator Stephane Ravier said the planned burqini day showed that despite assurances from the Muslim community following the terror attacks, “a certain number of Muslims voluntarily set themselves apart from… our society.” Socialist politician Stephane Mari worried that the event would draw intensive media coverage.
If it goes ahead, it would “once again favour the party (that promotes) the values of hatred and exclusion,” he said in a reference to the xenophobic National Front. Neither the waterpark nor Smile 13 could be reached for comment.